The small things that matter

4 December 2010. The beginning. Genesis. A new chapter was beginning to unfold.

I remember the date. Fresh in my mind. I could replay it. Every minute. Every day.

My heart raced when I reached the Deputado Luís Eduardo Magalhães International Airport in Salvador. “Was I doing the right thing?” raced through my mind. “What if this all turned out to be a bad idea? I’m alone here!” The word “Alone” itself was enough to terrify me.

I had never done this before. I had no job to go back to. I had given up my job, my source of income based on 1 and only 1 thought that kept on gnawing me every day and ate me up as I went to bed every night – I was not happy. This is not me. This is not my life.

A 9-5 job is perfectly fine. For those who find their happiness in it. A 9-5 job for which I felt frustrated every time I saw my efforts not bringing in the results I deserved, that was at the end giving me more stress than anything else, all in the name of “climbing up a ladder”, “getting to the top”. What use of a job is that. I was living paycheck to paycheck. Yes I have to live, yes I had to pay my bills. But is this how I was going to do so – by being unhappy?

Being in a rat race is just that. You end up being a rat. Confined in a cubicle. Behind the desk. Pleasing your superiors.

I had enough of the adult world. “Children”, my heart said, “Children is what you need to be around!”

4 December 2010. Brazil. Salvador.

How did I end up here? I just chose a random country to go to. “Do not go there”, a friend warned, translated to “You must go there” in my head.

Experience in children I had none. I could not even successfully change a diaper. I was a terrible baby-sitter to my younger brother.

I took a deep breath. “I am doing this!”, I told myself, “There must be a reason why I am here”.

Fast Forward. 6 December 2010.

My first day at school – Educandário Creche Comunitária Sonho Vovó Clara. Mata Escura favela. Salvador.

With barely any spoken Portuguese, I was in the babies room. Around 10 of them. “They are going to eat me alive”, I said to myself.

The babies room was a mixture of 2 year – 3 year olds and children with learning disabilities. Taking care of such a room where each child required specific attention was the biggest challenge I ever faced. Writing business documents seemed relatively breezy instead.

My days changed. From being used to sitting at my desk to being filled with – Patience. Love. Smiles. Laughter. Playing “Qade Alekis?”. Asking them to take their afternoon nap in broken Portuguese were met with cheeky laughs from the children. Tia Xicara was my name they yelled out, sometimes met with a puzzled face (Xicara means “teacup” in Portuguese).

Love filled my heart. Such abundance of love that only a child can fill your heart with.

Samara and me on my last day at the school

I am merely a drop in the ocean. My fellow volunteers inspired me with their hard work. We had 1 thing in common that bound us, turned us into a family – our love for these children.

The children’s backgrounds were harsh and yet they smiled. “How is this possible?” I thought. They had nothing yet they were thankful for every meal they received at school, for every hugs we gave them, for every lesson we taught them, for being alive.

“I found the reason”, I said to myself. The persisting question which my logical left brain had been seeking an answer for as I stood in the Airport on the morning of 4 December 2010.

Adults closed up my heart. Hard as a rock it had become. These children taught me to love again.

For every moment that I spent with them, I am eternally thankful.

“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand”

Tia Xicara, the kids would call me as they couldn't pronounce my name, in the babies class

Note: The year 2011 not only brought a big change to my life but also changes to Educandário Creche Comunitária Sonho Vovó Clara (or Grandmother Clara´s Educational Community Creche). The corporation that used to fund them pulled the plug and decided that they were no longer going to support the school. Only one woman, Emma Astles, remained and she has since been fighting to keep the school going, offering free education, childcare and food to the children of Mata Escura favela.

Every penny counts and if you would like to donate to keep the dreams of the children alive, please visit their website –


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